January 08, 2006
Fair Winds and Following Seas to an American HeroOne definition of a hero is recognizing the right thing to do, and then doing it, no matter what the personal risk or cost. Hugh Thompson earned that title when he faced evil and stepped in to make a difference. John Donovan from Castle Argghhh! hosts a memorial this weekend for CW2 Turner, who died Thursday of cancer in a VA hospital.
On March 16, 1968, American soldiers in My Lai killed more than 500 unarmed Vietnamese civilians. Many were children and senior citizens. And, the body count would have been higher if it weren't for the courage of Thompson and his crew who landed their helicopter in between American troops and the Vietnamese citizens who took shelter in a bunker.
From a CNN interview:
"We just noticed a vast number of dead bodies: old women, old men, babies, infants that were dead or wounded," said Thompson, who was 24 at the time.
And, it was over 30 years before Thompson, Colburn and Andreotta were recognized for their heroism. In 1997, they each received the Soldier's Medal, an award for battlefield bravery that doesn't involve enemy conflict. Colburn and Thompson received their medals personally. Andreotta was killed in combat shortly after My Lai.
"What My Lai really means or what it stands for is choices that you make in your life and the outcomes, and if it signifies anything, it's that," Colburn said.
"My Lai was a very bad situation - one that I hope and pray never happens again, but there's some good that came out of it," Thompson said in a CNN interview. "If we can have any of our younger generation, our college students or whatever, high school, stop and think sometime in their life, 'This ain't right. I'm not gonna do it' and put their foot down and go with what's in their heart, it'll be worth it in the long run."
And that lesson carries on. In an interview recently, Joint Chiefs Chair, USMC General Peter Pace reiterated his expectation for American troops:
"It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it. As an example of how to do it if you don't see it happening but you're told about it is exactly what happened a couple weeks ago. There's a report from an Iraqi to a U.S. commander that there was possibility of inhumane treatment in a particular facility. That U.S. commander got together with his Iraqi counterparts. They went together to the facility, found what they found, reported it to the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi government has taken ownership of that problem and is investigating it. So they did exactly what they should have done."
My Lai is certainly a black mark on our military history. Thanks to heroes like Hugh Thompson, and leaders like General Pace, it will, hopefully, never be repeated. Choices and outcomes. Thompson made a courageous choice and it made a difference. In the end, that is all any of us can aspire to do.
Posted by Deb at January 8, 2006 01:17 AM
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I'm confused. I thought there was no massacre at My Lai. How can Thompson be a hero of anything? No one was ever convicted of anything. Lt. Calley got 3 years house arrest and only served one. Basically, Thompson and his crew pulled their weapons on hard-fighting commies, from what I understand. I don't get any of this.
Posted by: confused at January 18, 2006 10:02 AM
these are the sort of people i look up to thompson and his crew are good men.And when i hear of US troops doing bad things to people. I hope there are more people out there like Mr thompson and his crew.
Posted by: Paul at October 25, 2012 01:45 AM